Choosing Lives and Giving Life
See, I set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, by loving Yahweh, your God, by obeying God’s voice, and by holding fast to Yahweh; for that means life to you and length of days… — Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a
One of my favorite biblical passages is Deuteronomy 30, God’s urging the people of Israel to choose life. On the edge of the promised land, Moses reminds the gathered community of their long journey to this place, calling them to renew their covenant with Yahweh, to choose again the way of life while they are on the threshold of possibility. I don’t imagine Moses speaking these words to the people of Israel like protesters have been known to shout them at women painfully navigating the difficult and vulnerable terrain of unintended pregnancy.
I imagine Moses voicing the passionate plea as a reminder of the ways we are continually and collectively called by God to turn toward, to lean into, to choose and create life together, full of meaning and joy, particularly in the midst of all the forms of destruction and devastation, the loss and grief with which we are inevitably familiar.
At Pilgrim, we choose life when we welcome and affirm the sacred and wonder-full worth of all who come to the table, regardless of where their long journeys have taken them. We choose life when we advocate for all people to live together fully and fairly in beloved community.
The Red Cross makes a philanthropic twist of God’s border call, encouraging everyone who can to give the gift of life. Remarkable work has been done through its efforts: blood donated to the Red Cross supplies about 40% of the blood needed by accident victims, cancer patients, surgical candidates, children with blood disorders, and other recipients in the United States.
The glaring problem, of course, is that not everyone is allowed to give. The Food and Drug Administration, which determines blood donation eligibility in the U.S., continues to enforce a lifetime blood donation deferral for gay men. The deferral is criticized by many, including the Red Cross.
To the commonly cited grounds of scientific and medical research, both of which categorically reject the deferral, we add sacred and moral soil: not allowing our gay brothers to give blood denies life and dismisses blessing — for all who could be helped by additional blood donations, and for all unfairly rejected by the unjust policy.
Under current FDA regulations, blood drives set before us both life and death, blessing and curse. We choose lives — ALL of them. On June 9th, we will choose lives and life by co-hosting a blood donation with New Life Fellowship Church, the congregation that meets in our building on Saturdays, AND by challenging the egregious FDA ban through writing letters and taking pictures of protest. The afternoon offers an opportunity to partner with our sanctuary mates, to help people desperately in need of blood, and to work toward better donation policies for everyone.
So mark your calendars for Tuesday, June 9th from 3:00 to 7:30 p.m. at Pilgrim. All are invited to gather at the border as we choose lives and give life together.